Book Lists

Middle Grade Books About Friendship

There’s a line that pops up on social media from time to time that says, “People come into your path for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” It’s been playing in my head this past week, ever since I learned that one of my closest friends is dying. Thinking about our too short friendship has got me thinking about the various other people I have had the fortune to call my friend. It’s also got me thinking about how friendships grow and change over time. Which is why I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite Middle Grade Books about friendship. Consider it a tribute to friendships old and new, long and short, loved and lost.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Last Great Adventure of the PB & J Society
by Janet Sumner Johnson

When her best friend’s house is threatened with foreclosure, young Annie Jenkins is full of ideas to save the home: selling her appendix on eBay, winning the lottery, facing down the bankers . . . anything to keep Jason from moving. But Jason’s out-of-work dad blows up at the smallest things, and he’s not very happy with Annie’s interventions, which always seem to get them into more trouble. But when Annie tracks a lost treasure to Jason’s backyard, she’s sure the booty will be enough to save Jason’s family. Pirate treasure in the Midwest seems far-fetched, even to Annie, but it could be the answer to all their problems. Now all she has to do is convince Jason. As the two hunt for answers and the pressure gets to Jason and his family, Annie discovers that the best-laid plans aren’t always enough and there are worse things than moving away.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgYou Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly

Twelve-year-old Charlotte Lockard and eleven-year-old Ben Boxer are separated by more than a thousand miles. On the surface, their lives seem vastly different—Charlotte lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while Ben is in the small town of Lanester, Louisiana.

Charlotte wants to be a geologist and keeps a rock collection in her room. Ben is obsessed with Harry Potter, presidential history, and recycling. But the two have more in common than they think. They’re both highly gifted. They’re both experiencing family turmoil. And they both sit alone at lunch.

During the course of one week, Charlotte and Ben—friends connected only by an online Scrabble game—will intersect in unexpected ways as they struggle to navigate the turmoil of middle school. The New York Times-bestselling novel You Go First reminds us that no matter how hard it is to keep our heads above troubled water, we never struggle alone.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgRaymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

Caleb Franklin and his big brother Bobby Gene are excited to have adventures in the woods behind their house. But Caleb dreams of venturing beyond their ordinary small town.

Then Caleb and Bobby Gene meet new neighbor Styx Malone. Styx is sixteen and oozes cool. Styx promises the brothers that together, the three of them can pull off the Great Escalator Trade–exchanging one small thing for something better until they achieve their wildest dream. But as the trades get bigger, the brothers soon find themselves in over their heads. Styx has secrets–secrets so big they could ruin everything.

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgRoll by Darcy Miller

When Lauren (but call him “Ren,” pretty please) Hall sees birds falling from the sky, he knows something is wrong. But just as he’s starting to worry, he realizes that the birds are plummeting toward the ground on purpose.

Turns out they’re Birmingham Roller Pigeons, and his new neighbor Sutton is training them for a competition.

Sure, it’s strange, but Ren’s best and only friend Aiden has picked this summer to start hanging with the popular kids. So Ren starts training pigeons with Sutton—what’s the worst that could happen? A bird falls on his head?

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Right Hook of Devin Velma by Jake Burt

Devin wants to hit it big on the internet by pulling a stunt at an NBA game—one the entire nation will be watching. Addison can’t turn Devin down, but he can barely manage talking to his teachers without freezing up. How’s he supposed to handle the possibility of being a viral sensation?

Addi’s not sure why Devin is bent on pulling off this almost-impossible feat. Maybe it has something to do with Devin’s dad’s hospital bills. Maybe it all goes back to the Double-Barreled Monkey Bar Backflip of Doom. Or maybe it’s something else entirely. No matter what, though, it’s risky for both of them, and when the big day finally comes, Devin’s plan threatens more than just their friendship.

 

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgStanley Will Probably Be Fine by Sally J. Pla

Nobody knows comics trivia like Stanley knows comics trivia.

It’s what he takes comfort in when the world around him gets to be too much. And after he faints during a safety assembly, Stanley takes his love of comics up a level by inventing his own imaginary superhero, named John Lockdown, to help him through.

Help is what he needs, because Stanley’s entered Trivia Quest—a giant comics-trivia treasure hunt—to prove he can tackle his worries, score VIP passes to Comic Fest, and win back his ex-best friend. Partnered with his fearless new neighbor Liberty, Stanley faces his most epic, overwhelming, challenging day ever.

What would John Lockdown do?

Stanley’s about to find out.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgWish by Barbara O’Connor

Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite.

But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is, until she meets Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.

From award-winning author Barbara O’Connor comes a middle-grade novel about a girl who, with the help of a true-blue friend, a big-hearted aunt and uncle, and the dog of her dreams, unexpectedly learns the true meaning of family in the least likely of places.

 

What are some of your favorite Middle Grade books about friendship? Please, share in the comments section.

19 Back-to-School Themed Books

As summer winds down, kids are thinking about heading back to school. After you load them up with all the no. 2 pencils they need, get them in the school spirit with a middle-grade book about those first days back in the hallways.

The First Rule of Punk Cover
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez
First day at a new school and twelve-year-old Malú makes her school’s queen bee, mad, shows up in punk rock attire that is not dress-code approved, and gets in trouble with her mom. Is there a harder age than this? We don’t think so!

Ghosts CoverGhosts by Raina Telgemeier
Catrina is upset that her family relocated to Bahía de la Luna, California, but her younger sister Maya has cystic fibrosis and the sea air in their new coastal town will help her. Exploring, they find out their town is full of ghosts–and it sends Catrina on a journey of her own.

Goodbye Stranger Cover

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Growing up together vs. growing apart is the theme of Stead’s novel about three best friends who find that everything changes at the start of seventh grade.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
No BTS list is complete without a mention of “the boy who lived” and his first eventful year at Hogwarts.

The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman
When a group of fifth graders team up as the D Squad to create a homework machine named Belch, everything goes smoothly… at first, but before long, Belch becomes more powerful than they ever imagined, and the kids wind up in major trouble.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Aven may make up stories like that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, but she was born without them. She fears that moving across the country and starting over at a new school means she’ll have to explain her physical differences over and over again to new people. But the move allows her to meet a new friend, solve a mystery, and face her fears.

Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge
In this relatable story, Karma is super nervous about starting middle school–for all sorts of reasons, including tricky friend reasons and changes in her family reasons–and most of all, because of the seventeen hairs that suddenly showed up on her upper lip.

Kat Greene Comes Clean by Melissa Roske
Fifth grade Kat lives in New York where she attends a new age New York City private school. In addition to coping with all sorts of fifth grade stuff (like a boy crazy best friend) she has a mother with worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer Cover

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles
Buddies Otto and Sheed are junior detectives in their wacky town where all sorts of crazy stuff happens. As summer nears its end, they’ve got one final mystery to solve before school starts.

Lost and Found by Andrew Clements
Twelve-year-old identical twins Ray and Jay are tired of being known as part of a pair. But when they start at a new school, and Ray stays home sick on the first day, Jay discovers the school has no record of his brother. Cue crazy schemes and shenanigans as the twins trick their new classmates and teachers into thinking there is just one of them.

 

Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm
Ginny starts seventh grade with a to-do list of impressive action items but her school year so does not go as planned. Told through Ginny’s stuff (like notes and report cards) this is a fun and unusual way to tell a story.

My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros
I so remember those back-to-school jitters I wrote a whole book about it. My Year of Epic Rock is my debut novel about Nina, who, on the first day of seventh grade, finds out her best friend has ditched her for a cooler girl. Ouch! Now Nina’s banished to the peanut allergy table in the cafeteria at lunchtime, where she and the other food-allergic kids come together how to have a rocking year.

New Kid by Jerry Craft
This funny, relatable graphic novel follows Jordan as he starts seventh grade at a fancy new private school where he’s one of only a few boys of color. Suddenly he feels adrift, not at home with the friends he left behind nor the new kids at school he feels he has little in common with.

Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham (illustrator)
This graphic memoir explores the pain and challenges of shifting friendships. Shannon thinks Adrienne is her best friend forever, but then Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen and “The Group,” leaving Shannon painfully behind.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
This whimsical novel is about a town called Midnight Gulch that used to be full of magic, before a curse ended that. Now twelve-year-old Felicity has moved there with her always-on-the-move mother, and Felicity wants nothing more than to heal the town and finally find a home they can stay in forever.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Origami Yoda Books) Cover

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Origami Yoda series Book 1) by Tom Angleberger
In the first book in the beloved, hilarious Origami Yoda series, sixth grader Dwight creates a finger puppet paper Yoda, who turns out to be as wise and helpful as the Yoda we all know and love.

The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins by Gail Shepherd
Set in 1985 Tennessee , Lyndie B. Hawkins is the daughter of a veteran. Her love of history, especially family history, puts her in direct opposition to her fusspot grandmother who’d rather keep secrets than expose them.

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Dèja starts fifth grade at a new school with a secret — she and her family are homeless and live in a Brooklyn shetler. But an inspiring teacher leads to new friendships for Dèja, as well as an understanding about the tragic events of 9/11, fifteen years prior, and their lingering impact on her family and community.

Wonder

Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Starting at a brand-new school in fifth grade is hard enough, but for Auggie, born with facial differences that make him stand out, it’s even harder. This lovely and moving novel guides readers to “Choose Kind.”

 

 

 

Stranger Things, Mall Bookstores, and 80s Books!

Hello Mixed-Up Filers!

It’s definitely been a while, and I missed all of you. Hope you’re enjoying the summer, because I know that I am. It’s always been my favorite season, because once school lets out, there are always endless possibilities. The sense of fun and adventure that each day might bring. Some of my best memories were during the summers of my youth and that’s kind of what I decided to write about today.

The reason for this trip down memory lane?

Well, let’s say it has to do with a certain popular, spooky show on Netflix. That’s right, Stranger Things. First off, it’s such a fun show on its own, but if you grew up in the same era that I did, it brings back waves of nostalgia. I tell my kids all the time how much fun the 80’s were. The movies, the music, and they look at me the same way that I probably looked at my parents when they would talk to me about the 50’s and 60’s. Actually, to be fair to both me and my kids, I was interested in the 50’s and 60’s and my kids are interested in the 80’s, and it makes sense, since there always seems to be that glorifying the time before as something special. I mean, I grew up watching Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, and they have Stranger Things and other shows which portray the 80’s as some magical time.

The only difference is, the 80’s really were the best time!

But getting back to Stranger Things and my youth, the portrayal rang true to me. Well, except for having to deal with inter-dimensional monsters and Soviet spies. As for everything else, yes, it was an idealized version of  the 80s, but the mall really was the epicenter of the teen universe back then. Movie theaters, food courts, record shops, arcades, and for me, bookstores. I’ve posted before about how much I miss Waldenbooks and B. Daltons. I would never go into the mall without stopping at one of them. And when I went with my dad, he’d ALWAYS buy me a book. Didn’t matter if we had just gone a couple of days before, he’d get me another one, because I read them that fast. Those memories are really among my best of mall life. And truth be told, I still think of those days every single time I go into a mall now. It’s a sense of loss that those days are gone, but even more that those stores are gone. The mall experience just isn’t the same for me without them.

So, now you might be asking, “Jonathan, that’s sweet, but is this post just about a stroll down memory lane? Does it have anything at all to do with actual books?”

Well, I’m glad you asked.

You see, like I said, watching that show got me thinking about my youth, and going to the bookstores, and what did I buy there? Books, of course! And I just wanted to share some of the books that came out in the 80’s that I enjoyed and think need a revisiting now!

So, because I know that you’re all anxiously waiting for the list, here we go:

Okay, the first one is a cheat. I admit it. But, technically, it came out in 1980, even though the series is much, much older. I devoured The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, and I specifically remember buying The Mystery of Smugglers Cove. Probably read it in one day, too. This one, I remember well because it took place in Florida. Who knows, maybe that helped influence my move here, years later.

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman: This one is in my mind for several reasons. I remember getting this book because of the author’s name. I had no idea at the time that he was this huge entity in the kidlit world. All I knew was it was a Jewish last name and I wanted to read it. I had such a desire to read stories that featured Jewish characters because there weren’t many, and I wanted to see myself in books. There’s still a huge need for that. (Cough, cough, We Need Diverse Books committee). The book wasn’t specifically Jewish, but it seemed like it, and that was close, and it was also a good book on its own. Entertaining and funny. And I remember it even more fondly, since years later, I was fortunate enough to actually meet Sid Fleischman at a Florida SCBWI conference and take a workshop with him. He really was the nicest man. He wasn’t doing well, but still spent quite a bit of time talking to me that weekend, and I’ll always cherish that.

Being a writer who loves Spooky things, and actually belonging to a group of SpookyMG writers, you know I have to include Scary Stories to tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. Was this book actually scary? Heck, yeah! Definitely took quick peeks around the room when I was reading. My daughter has seemed to pick up on my love of spooky stories, and we’re both very much looking forward to the movie adaptation later this year.

 

Next we have The Wish Giver by Bill Brittain. This was a scary, funny story, like the ones I’m so fond of. It deals with a wish-giver who grants wishes that go horribly wrong. Sound familiar? Well, that’s because it’s a take on the Monkey’s Paw story. I love that tale so much, that one of the first things I wrote was an updated Monkey Paw tale. Seek this book out!

Okay, I’m going to end this on another cheat here, but not really. For anyone who’s listened to my school visits, you know I ALWAYS mention this series. The Choose Your Own Adventure books were among my favorites. And when I said that my dad used to get me books all the time, more often than not, he bought me one of these. I finished them off in a day. They were so dog-eared to keep track of all the different endings. And the best part about these books, to me, was that it was in second person. So, it was always YOU are the star, meaning me. It was easy to put myself into all those situations and imagine myself doing them. I’m happy that my kids like them now.

Well, there you have it. My short list of 80s books. It was a fun time with some really great books. I’d list more but Dorian Cirrone said that I needed to stock the supply room at Mixed-Up Files Headquarters and she gets testy when I don’t do it right away.

So, those were some of my favorites, now tell me some of yours in the comments!

Until next time, here’s the third most popular member of the site signing off . . .